Policy shift, COVID-19 vaccine transparency to spur economic recovery — Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — Tweaking the government’s current policies and a more transparent approach to the COVID-19 vaccines would kick-start the country’s economic recovery, Vice President Leni Robredo claimed on Sunday.
According to Robredo, these two things would go hand-in-hand as a better and evolved response to the pandemic, and being clear about the vaccine procurement would boost the public’s confidence on both the economy and the national immunization program — especially as a lot are skeptical about the vaccines.
The Vice President said in her weekly Sunday radio program at DZXL that the national government can overturn projections of the Philippine economy falling behind its Asean neighbors if they address these issues.
“For example, Vietnam has now registered a positive growth, while others predict that they would recover within this year. But we appear to be on lagging behind, based on the projection. Their basis has been how we respond to the threat of the coronavirus, and our vaccination plan,” Robredo said in Filipino.
“I hope our policies, our COVID-19 response improve so that their initial projection of our economy would change,” she added.
In a December 2020 economic outlook by Japanese investment house Nomura, it detailed why the Philippines is likely to lag behind its fellow Asean members in terms of economic recovery in 2021, due to vulnerability from the pandemic.
While Nomura predicted that Asia would be performing better on a year-on-year basis — compared to when the pandemic hit and shut down various businesses — Philippines and Thailand would lag behind its neighbors.
Robredo further explained that if pubic trust in vaccines would be restored, then the country may achieve herd immunity and allow business across the country to recover.
“Actually for other areas, the kind of vaccines are not an issue. I think it became an issue here because of the controversies, as initially, there have been so many declarations from the national government about Sinovac’s vaccines. Even the President himself has said a lot, that he prefers China and Russia’s vaccines,” she said.
“The problem is it was not that transparent. In fact, a Congressional hearing was needed because a lot of things were not clear. But if they were just very transparent from the start, I think controversies would not pop out. And of course, controversies are bad because they do not help, these only cast more doubt on the vaccines’ efficacy,” she added.
The government’s national vaccination plan is the subject of controversies due to varying prices and alleged low efficacy rates of Coronavac, a vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. While the government has insisted that Sinovac is safe and cheap compared to other vaccines, recent events have cast a doubt on that claim.
A week ago, Senator Panfilo Lacson mentioned that there was a high discrepancy between the selling prices of Sinovac in the Philippines and in other countries, saying that it costs only $5 or around P240 per dose in other areas but it goes for around $38 or around P1,800 in the country.
Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infetious Diseases (IATF) chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez disputed these information, saying that they have negotiated for low prices although he insisted that they cannot fully reveal vaccine prices due to a non-disclosure agreement.
Eventually, he revealed that Sinovac vaccine prices would not go over P700.
However, some senators insisted that the original vaccine prices which skyrocketed to over P3,600 per two doses came from the Department of Health around November.
But aside from the vaccine issue, Robredo noted that even her office’s own COVID-19 response has already transitioned from solely protecting frontliners to giving livelihood opportunities to communities, while exercising prudence due to the health crisis.
“We in the office, we are finding ways how to help people. So after the successive calamities, we decided to reassess how to spend our budget, we reassessed our programs,” Robredo said.
“We decided to prioritize this Sustainable Livelihood Assistance, so that we can extend some help to communities who are strugglign right now. It seemed that our response evolved. While we still continue to give out personal protective equipment, medical supplies, relief packs, we thought that we could concentrate on rehabilitation,” she claimed.
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